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Fashion Goes Gender Fluid

Some seriously stylish people give Cosmo a peek into their gender-eradicating, all-inclusive sense of style...and what it means to have wardrobes without boundaries!

By Priyanka Yadav; Interviews: Humra Afroz Khan

Joan Dominic Rai, Fashion Influencer

“I am someone who has never liked ‘labels’: I wear anything I feel right wearing. I don’t care what people think, or if it ‘fits’. And now that ‘gender-fluidity’ is being talked about so much, it is great to see everyone accepting the blurring of boundaries. Men wearing a skirt, sari, or even a pearl necklace is now considered ‘stylish’. Personally, I like to wear elements that are not typically ‘male’. But it’s not to make a statement, it’s just what my style sensibility is. Even for this shoot for Cosmo, I’ve put together things that I saw in my wardrobe and liked, there was no thought process to it, really. Also, at the moment, I am obsessed with big, bold accessories—necklaces, earrings, chunky heels—and that’s what I have worn here, too. To be honest, there’s no colour or silhouette to gender-fluidity. It’s about having the courage to be you. It’s to do with your mind: as long as you don’t see it as menswear or womenswear, you can be gender-fluid even in a pair of black jeans.”

Sumiran Kabir Sharma, Designer, Anaam

“To me, just the terminology is new, not the concept of gender-fluidity. When I was growing up, in Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh, I saw women around me wear ‘gender-fluid’ clothes all the time. My mother was a teacher, and she would wear my father’s clothes fairly often. She’d wear her saris with his blazers and jackets, or ditch ‘feminine’ sandals for sports shoes. It was more to do with functionality and comfort, but she was so confident about it! And not just fashion, there was a lot of fluidity in gender roles in our everyday lives, too. She’d do things that are stereotypically supposed to be done by men, including laborious work. A lot of my sister’s clothes were passed on to me, with no qualms. I’d wear her jeans, cardigans, whatever I liked. And if my friends tried to make fun of it, my mother would say, ‘No, don’t worry, there’s no difference!’. That shaped my personality. It was only later, when I moved to the city, that I saw the categorisation. Even now, when people ask me, ‘Oh my God, how can you wear a sari so confidently?’, I tell them that it comes naturally! Of course, I went through a phase where I was trying to fit in and be a ‘proper’ boy—act like one, dress like one. But soon, I realised that wasn’t who I was or who I wanted to be. For this shoot, I am wearing stockings under a double-breasted jacket, with big, chunky rings. I am new to accessories, so I am still easing into the territory. I still don’t wear necklaces often. I like to dress according to my mood, but in reverse: if I am very happy, I dress up the worst. And when I am feeling low, I like to dress well—it cheers me up!”

Tarun Panwar, Model (Agency: Feat.Artists)

“Gender-fluid fashion, for me, is many things, but most importantly, it’s a reality check to whatever people think or believe is normal. If fashion wasn’t about self-expression, this industry wouldn’t have been as big as it is today! In this shoot for Cosmo, I am wearing tailored, mustard-yellow pants with a white shirt that I had worn on the last day of school, and is signed by my friends and teachers. I have thrown into the mix an ethnic, handloom skirt (that a friend has created) and an iridescent jacket. I like unisex styles. I think I look and feel great in a dress. And I like to add layers to my outfits—it’s a great way to add volume to my otherwise slender body. Villanelle from Killing Eve is my ultimate style icon! I love that character, especially the way she chic and yet so bad*ss! That’s what I relate to the most in fashion.”

Amrita Khanna, Designer, Lovebirds

“I have always taken inspiration from men’s clothing. Maybe it’s because I grew up with an older brother and always wanted to do what he was doing. Wearing oversized T-shirts and shirts came as a natural influence. My parents would also buy the same clothes for us. Even now, I love wearing Gursi’s [Singh, Co-Founder, Lovebirds] clothes. The oversized jacket-shirt that I am wearing for the shoot is, in fact, also his! I like ‘fluidity’ in my clothes: pieces that don’t restrict movement and are easy and non-fussy. I like collars and cuffs on my dresses, and boxy shirts and pants. I often notice myself staring at Yoko Uno’s style and others like Billie Eilish and Björk. They are all such strong women and are so expressive through their clothing. No, I don’t want to infer that androgynous clothing is the only representation of a strong woman—I can feel strong in a super-feminine dress, too. It’s just about embracing who you truly are and enjoying being it. Fashion shouldn’t put you in a box. Gender-fluid is the way I always dress up. In this photograph, I’m wearing an oversized shirt and pants, both gender-fluid, with a cuff...I love accessorising my unisex clothing with a hint of jewellery. It helps elevate and soften the look.”

Akshat Bansal, Designer, Bloni

“Gender-fluidity to me is a sustainable way’s an answer to all the feminist movements that have been going on for so long, and a cohesive space for the human race to exist together. It is an attempt to re-generate gender norms and attain equality. For the shoot, I’m wearing a pink, neoprene, cropped jacket, with a faux-leather lapel collar detail—gender- and size-fluid—that I’ve paired with matching shorts and a printed nightsuit-shirt picked up from a thrift shop in London, when I was studying there. I’ve completed the look with pulled-up socks and Yeezy 700 shoes. And since we’re all living in the pandemic right now, I decided to make the imagery relevant—by wearing a faux-leather, metallic mask. When it comes to my personal style, I don’t look at a product for size or gender—I see whether it’ll look nice on me or not. I pick up things from any rack if I feel they vibe with my personality. Usually, I wear clothes that are slightly oversized. They are also easier to pass on to friends or cousins...I am not a hoarder, and don’t like to keep pieces for too long.”

Navkirat Sodhi, Poetess, Performer, and Author

“The day we are truly able to un-define gender is the day we’ll be able to define fluid. To me, gender-fluid fashion is the strength to display your mind, irrespective of how bizarre or how straightforward it might be. More than a divisive physicality, it’s an explorative and open state of mind—the appearance just follows and becomes a natural extension. For the Cosmo shoot, I’m wearing a jacket that is a fluid, asymmetric take on the men’s perfecto, designed by Gaurav Gupta. I’ve accented it with a dressing robe. A pop of neon through the stilettos is for the performer in all of us. The final image is a flux between stern and sensuous, adhering to no particular definition of gender. I’d call it Amrita Sher-Gil meets Wednesday Addams, with a sheer lining of Samantha Jones. It’s a mix of concept couture, tribal opulence, and easy excess. I love combining difficult and simple pieces, to take the serious edge off fashion.”